Antigua and Barbuda, is a group of three islands (including Redonda) in the Eastern Caribbean island especially popular for its exceptionally beautiful beaches. Truth is, besides the spectacular sandy coastline, there are so many exciting things to do in Antigua that will make you fall in love with this amazing corner of the Caribbean.
Antigua Travel Advisory
Is it safe to travel to Antigua Right now?
Antigua is open to tourism but there are some rules to follow.
“As of July 2, 2020, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda updated its travel advisory. All passengers arriving by air MUST have a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR (real time polymerase chain reaction) test result, taken within seven (7) days of their flight. This includes transiting passengers. Passengers arriving by sea are subject to quarantine according to guidelines issued by Port Health. All travelers are also subject to assessment by Port Health Authorities for signs and symptoms through a series of checks and the completion of a health declaration form on arrival.
All arriving passengers will be monitored for COVID-19 for periods of up to 14 days in accordance with the directions of the Quarantine Authority and the Quarantine (COVID-19) Guidelines. Visitors may be required to undergo further testing for COVID-19 on arrival or at the hotel or place of lodging as determined by the Health Authorities. The test takes 15 minutes. The results take approximately 96 hours to process, and travelers will be alerted of their results by health officials. Whilst travelers await results they do need to limit their movements, as instructed by the Quarantine Authority.
Read more updated information from the Tourism Authority site.
I lived in Antigua for about 2 years and I enjoyed every corner. I was fortunate enough to be working as a tour rep, so I “had to” try every single tour available before being confident about suggesting it to my guests. If I was happy, they would have been happy too.
Indeed all the beaches in Antigua are spectacular, long stretches of soft white sand washed by turquoise water, and surrounded by lush green rolling hills. It’s paradise found on earth. I loved every minute I spent on the island and now that I am writing about it’s like being back there again.
Antigua is very popular as a wedding or couple destination because of the romantic views and high-end hotels for the ultimate luxury escape.
In fact, I have seen basically every hotel on the island, or almost, and stayed in some of them. I am sure you will find my guide to the best Antigua All-inclusive resorts very useful and entertaining.
However, it’s definitely a destination suitable for solo travelers too. I was pretty much on my own most of the time and in my spare time, I loved to explore the beaches or sit at a cafe in English Harbor, splurge in one of the 5-star hotels, and enjoy the beauty around me.
Antigua & Barbuda facts
Antigua and Barbuda form an independent state in the Lesser Antilles in the eastern Caribbean Sea, at the southern end of the Leeward Islands chain. There is a third island that is actually dependent, Redonda, but it’s inhabited.
Local currency: Eastern Caribbean Dollar 1USD= 2.70 ECD – the USD is also used.
Capital Saint John’s
Official Language: English
Religion; there is no official religion although the majority of the local population is Christian.
Total Area: Sq. mi 171- Sq. Km 442
19 amazing things to do in Antigua
Rent a car and get lost
I always say that the best way to explore a country is by renting a car and drive around. It couldn’t be a more appropriate statement when it comes to Antigua. The island is tiny and you can drive around in one day, if you wouldn’t want to stop every 5 minutes to admire its beauty.
There is in fact such a variety of landscapes in such a little space that will blow your mind. The local transportation is not reliable and not really suitable for exploring around. There are also many amazing tours that I will explain in a bit. But I would definitely rent a car for a few days to explore the spectacular Antigua beaches and all the secret spots (which won’t be so secrets anymore if you read my guide. 🙂
Spend the day on one of the spectacular Antigua beaches, but especially this one
I couldn’t stress enough how beautiful Antigua beaches are, the white soft sand, the rolling hills as a backdrop, the turquoise ocean, and the lack of crowds altogether are what makes Antigua beaches so unique.
I have created a dedicated post on the best beaches in Antigua with so much detailed information to keep it as a precious guide for your trip.
I have to tell you though, that my favorite remains Half Moon Bay, so-called because it’s shaped like a giant half-moon and it will magically appear to you while you are driving there, which is where you should stop and take a panoramic shot.
I used to spend most of my days off there and it never gets boring. Let me know how you liked it too.
Watch the sunset at Shirley Heights (especially on a Sunday)
This is local and tourist favorite weekly appointment, when they all gather on Shirley heights lookout, a former military building that it’s now a bar and restaurant overlooking the bay of English and Falmouth Harbour. The scene is spectacular and it became the iconic image of Antigua & Barbuda postcards.
The point is to be there by sunset and admire the sun disappearing in the horizon on the spectacular bay at the rhythm of the local and international music. Delicious local food and the famous Antiguan Rum punch, for better dance performance, are served.
It’s open from 4 to 10.00 pm.
You shouldn’t miss it.
Take a one day trip to Barbuda
Known for its pink sand and for being home of one the largest colonies of Frigate birds, Barbuda is Antigua little sister island that deserves to be seen at least once. There are two ways to visit.
- join a daily catamaran tour, where you will visit the bird sanctuary first and then land on a pristine pinkish beach to spend the rest of your day and have lunch
- Take the ferry boat, Barbuda Express, and let Capitan Greg take you to Barbuda, where you will be free to move around and enjoy the island at your own pace.
Join a sailing lesson
In Antigua sailing is The Thing! In fact, one of the main events in Antigua is Sailing Week, which is normally at the end of April and it marks the end of the high season. As you can imagine the island is not short of sailing school. One of them is Ondeck Sailing, whose office is located in English Harbour, just above the Marina docks, one of my favorite places to hang out.
If you don’t feel like learning but you love to feel the breeze on your face and let the wind take you around the island I suggest you should join some of the sailing tours, especially at sunset.
If you wish to have a romantic private tour on a sailing boat it is also available. You should either ask the reception of your hotel or check out at the Jolly Harbour or English Harbour Marina office.
They will definitely put you in contact with private operator.
Visit the donkey sanctuary
If you are particularly fond of animals, you might want to check out the Human Society, an animal welfare organization committed to rescuing all the endangered animals of Antigua & Barbuda. They have quite a big population of donkeys which you normally see roaming around the island. However, those who get injured or fell sick end up here where they get good and loving care from the volunteers.
The entrance is free but they accept donation or you can even adopt a donkey.
Many tours of the island make a stop here but if you rented a car you can go on your own and you will be very well received by the kind staff. You will be able to brush them or pet them and help out.
It’s not only a great educational and entertaining stop for kids, but also for us, who have always something to learn from our furry friends.
Join a hiking or biking trip off the beaten track
Did I mention that Antigua is not only about the beach? With such a diverse territory you can find amazing hikes in the tropical forest, right in the middle of the island where also the Canopy tour starts. They have great trails too. Otherwise, you can join an organized hiking tour. This company offers a combo tour of biking, hiking, and kayaking for some outdoor activity. You definitely won’t get bored.
Hardcore hikers should join this tour instead, for a more challenging adventure and breathtaking views from the top of the hills.
Enjoy one of the local restaurant on the beach
Antigua is brimming of local restaurants that serve authentic genuine food. Turner beach is one of the best beaches in Antigua where they also serve fantastic food at the homonym restaurant. It was one of my Sunday’s appointment.
Get pampered in one of the most exclusive hotels on the Island
Antigua is considered a high-end destination with so many world-class hotels that makes it a very hard task to choose the best one. I am particularly fond of Hermitage bay, but you should check out my posts on the best Antigua All-inclusive hotels to explore more options and see which one resonates more with your style.
Take a walk around St John’s, Antigua capital city
The colorful pretty city, capital, and port of Antigua & Barbuda is definitely worth a visit. Among the things to do in St. John’s Antigua, you will love to walk around the colorful shops of Redcliffe Quay, the best place to find a souvenir to take home.
Continue onto St. Mary Street and keep walking along the local busy streets, get an ice-cream or stop by the Roty King restaurant if its lunchtime to try one of the delicious local delicacies.
To get acquainted with Antigua history, head to St. John’s Cathedral, a 19th-century Anglican church, on a hill near the 17th-century Government House. A monument to the nation’s founder, V.C. Bird is next to the Public Market, which sells crafts and products.
If you have a car or by taxi head just out of town, towards Dickenson Bay and stop by Fort James, one of the many forts built by the British in the 18th century. On Fort James there is now a lovely restaurant called Russel’s Bar and Seafood where, besides delicious food and great ocean views, you might find jazz music playing during dinner time, on some nights.
Learn about the Caribbean Cuisine
Caribbean cuisine is one of the richest and strongest in flavors, and very spicy. Although it’s very similar throughout the Caribbean, each island has its own secrets and signature dishes.
If you wish to find out about the delicious plates you might have tried during your vacation in Antigua, you can join one (or more) of these series of cooking workshops, 4-hours each and in small-groups.
You will create a delicious 3-course meal and cocktails from start to finish with your instructor, Nicole, and then enjoy the fruits of your labor with views of the Caribbean Sea.
Join Eli’s original Eco Tours
This boat eco-tour is one of the most popular tours in Antigua to discover the natural world, from rock formations to the abundant sea life, it will be a beautiful sea adventure in the North Sound region where there are 22 uninhabited pristine offshore islands.
It’s a great opportunity to connect with nature and to learn about the ecosystems & the history of the different islands in this protected area, including the turtle project at Jumby Bay, the reef ball system at Maiden Island, the beautiful and important Mangrove system of Guiana Island & much more.
During the tour, you will enjoy two snorkeling sessions (& a snorkel lesson for those who need) along with a nature walk/hike to the top of Bird Island where you might get a chance to see one of our indigenous & endangered (nonpoisonous) Antigua Racer Snake.
You will also visit Hells Gate Island for a snorkel or a climb through a small cave-like structure that goes through the island & comes out over a natural bridge on top – seeing the Atlantic Ocean on one side & Caribbean Sea on the other.
The professional and knowledgeable team of Adventure Antigua will make sure you have a blast in this full-day boat tour.
Take a zip line ride into the jungle and Kayaking tour combo
These are going to be 6 hours packed with spectacular outdoor activities, starting from Zip lining, with 8 rides in the jungle, then kayaking among the mangroves into the sea and finally snorkeling into the pristine Caribbean waters. A delicious meal completes the amazing experience in nature.
Book your Zip Line & Kayaking tour.
Go Kitesurfing or take Kite lessons
Antigua is also one of the best destinations to practice kitesurfing or learning. There are many different kite schools, all great.
One is Jabberwock kite school based on the homonymous beach, close to the airport.
Another company, 40knots operates in Green Island instead, another spectacular spot in Antigua off the touristy lane.
Visit the historical Nelson Dockyard at English Harbor
Antigua is full of interesting spots that remind us about the local history and culture and Nelson Dockyard is one of the most iconic areas of the island. The original British maritime hub, it has now been fully restored and working Dockyard home to amazing boats, and strategic location of different restaurants and store. Although equipped with modern facilities it still conserves the historical feel, its main appeal.
It’s now a very popular place to visit in Antigua, with many activities to enjoy and venue of many local events.
The Dockyard Museum, located in the former Admiral’s House, presents visitors with exhibits regarding the Dockyard’s history and current archaeological research on the island.
Inside the Nelson Dockyard, you can also find the Copper and Lumber Store Hotel an iconic hotel that conserves a unique victorian feel.
You can visit Nelson Dockyard on your own, really don’t need a tour. You can drive there or get a taxi, just make sure you agree on the pickup time as I don’t recall seeing any taxis there.
If you go during the day you can also enjoy one of the beautiful beaches (Pigeon Beach) and a world-class meal in one of the restaurants in English Harbour, go for a walk to the marina or a hike to the surrounding hills overlooking the bay.
It is also close tot he popular Shirley Heights about which I talked earlier on this post.
Enjoy a world class dinner at The Inn
The Inn at English Harbour is one of my favorite hotels in Antigua, an elegant 5-star resort, one of the few NON-all-inclusive, located on a private beach closed to the English Harbor. Its world-class restaurant offers a magical atmosphere with views over the bay and fine Italian dishes. It’s very romantic but I assure you, even if you travel solo, you will definitely enjoy a fine meal in such a location.
Spend a day on Pineapple Beach
Among all the beautiful beaches in Antigua Pineapple beach is a special one for one main reason. It’s really one of the few where you can snorkel from the shore on the right side of the beach.
The beach is public plus there is a big hotel right on the left side so it can become quite crowded, especially on a Sunday. I would choose a weekday for an amazing day on the beach. You will also find a little restaurant if you want to grab a drink or a quick lunch.
Take a selfie at Devil’s bridge
One of the most dramatic natural scene in Antigua, the most loved by photographers, after Shirley’s Height’s lookout. It’s basically a natural bridge carved into the rocks by the power of crushing waves, on the ocean side of the island. Definitely worth a visit, but don’t walk on it. 🙂
If you join the Island Safari tour, that includes also a stop at devil’s bridge, among other Antigua historic landmarks.
Watch the Antigua Sailing Week
Antigua Sailing Week is the event of the year, where sail lovers and professionals of the world gather in Antigua to compete in this event that has been on for the past 51 years. There are different events during this week where you can see a showcase of the most beautiful boats in the world and of course lots of parties and gatherings. It’s normally the last week of April.
You can also apply here to become part of the crew of one of the racing boats.
Antigua & Barbuda FAQ
What is Antigua known for?
Definitely considered one of the most romantic and exclusive Caribbean destinations, Antigua is mainly popular for her spectacular beaches, apparently 356, one for each day of the year.
In my 2 years living on the island I haven’t seen them all but, definitely explored most of them, and I can confirm they are spectacular.
You can check out my guide to the best Antigua Beaches.
Antigua is also known for the Sailing week which takes place every year at the end of April. A major event in the sailing world.
Is Antigua safe?
Although we cannot say that Antigua is completely free of safety concerns, it is definitely considered safe to travel.
Like anywhere else in the world you need to make sure that usual common sense is used throughout your traveling and some extra attention required.
Some examples are:
- do not go to public beaches at night
- avoid hiking alone, or going to any deserted beaches by yourself
- look after your personal belonging
- leave your valuable in your hotel safe.
I wouldn’t bring any jewels with me, also because you don’t really need them. You are beautiful anyway :)!
How much spending money do I need for Antigua?
I always find this one a very difficult question, because it all depends on your spending habits. It also depends on whether you are staying in an all-inclusive hotel or a guest house, how many tours you are going to book or whether you are renting a car. Consider that prices are pretty much like in the States (maybe not NYC prices).
Is Antigua expensive to visit ?
Consider that the best all inclusive hotels would range from 500 to 1000 USD a night per room, while nice guest houses with no meals would be around 200 USD per room.
If you are a solo traveler it will be more expensive because the all-inclusive price becomes outrageously high, and there are no single rates for room only hotels, as there is a fixed price for the room. You might want to check out some Airbnb options if you don’t want to splurge in a hotel. There are many cute accommodations.
To eat out you can find delicious meals also in the local restaurants which have affordable prices, and I have to say, that’s the best way to try the local cuisine.
Activities range from 120USD to 200USD for boat tours and below 100 for other kinds of tours mentioned above.
Read more on the Caribbean Islands:
The ultimate guide to Jamaica
The top all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica
Is Jamaica safe to travel?
The complete guide to St Barth
Why should you travel to The Bahamas
The best Antigua Beaches
21 Interesting Facts about Antigua & Barbuda that you must know